Carson doctor offers insight into ongoing pandemic

Carson City Dr. Merritt Dunlap, center, speaks to the Chamber of Commerce on Sept. 13, 2022 at Gold Dust West.

Carson City Dr. Merritt Dunlap, center, speaks to the Chamber of Commerce on Sept. 13, 2022 at Gold Dust West.
Photo by Scott Neuffer.

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High-risk individuals who haven’t had the omicron variant of COVID-19 should consider getting the latest booster shot in consultation with their doctor, Carson City Dr. Merritt Dunlap told Chamber of Commerce members on Sept. 13.
Dunlap, who also teaches at the University of Nevada, Reno, School of Medicine, spoke at the chamber’s luncheon, which was held at Gold Dust West. He gave less than a ringing endorsement of the new booster shots, citing his own concerns with the Centers of Disease Control’s research and approval process, but said boosters might help vulnerable people.
For those who’ve had omicron, he didn’t offer advice because he wasn’t sure of the benefit. He did provide a rough history of the pandemic, how COVID-19’s severity lessened this year with the widespread omicron outbreak.
“Omicron is a gamechanger,” he said. “It’s a less virulent, less lethal form but more transmissible.”
He said those who got COVID-19 this year had some form of omicron. The good news is omicron is less lethal than the seasonal flu, Dunlap said. The bad news is it’s unlikely to be eradicated.
“Most of us will encounter it over and over again,” he said of the evolving virus. “This thing is going to be around forever.”
While saying the original vaccines were “probably pretty good at preventing us from getting seriously ill,” Dunlap offered his own critique of the CDC and what he viewed as mismanagement and rushing through approval of the boosters. He urged audience members against “propagating fear.”
In August, the Associated Press reported on a shakeup at the CDC — led by the agency’s director — that will address staff turnover issues, streamline scientific reports, and make public guidelines clearer and easier to find.
Currently, the CDC is recommending updated booster shots with omicron variant components, “helping to restore protection that has waned since previous vaccination by targeting variants that are more transmissible.”
The CDC recommends the Pfizer booster for people ages 12 and up and the Moderna booster for people 18 and older.
“This recommendation followed a comprehensive scientific evaluation and robust scientific discussion,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a Sept. 1 news release. “If you are eligible, there is no bad time to get your COVID-19 booster, and I strongly encourage you to receive it.”
The same day Dunlap spoke to the chamber, the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services reiterated the CDC recommendation, stating Nevadans 12 and older are now eligible for the new booster if their last shot was at least two months ago.
“These bivalent vaccines will provide Nevadans with one more level of protection against COVID-19, especially heading into the fall and winter, gathering indoors, in schools and with our loved ones to celebrate holidays,” Kristy Zigenis, program manager for the Nevada State Immunization Program, said in a news release.
According to Carson City Health and Human Services, the quad counties — Carson, Douglas, Storey and Lyon — have seen 38,868 cases of COVID to date. As of Sept. 13, there have been 547 reported deaths in the region due to the virus, or 1.41 percent of total cases.
For information about COVID-19 vaccines in Nevada, visit https://www.nvcovidfighter.org.

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